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Lawmaker Might Punish University for Talking About Racism on Grindr

Lawmaker Might Punish University for Talking About Racism on Grindr

Steve Nass

Talking about racism on Grindr is apparently grounds for losing your university's funding.

A Wisconsin Republican is threatening UW-Madison's funding because he doesn't want racism on Grindr talked about in classes.

State senator Steve Nass sent an angry letter, obtained by The Advocate, to the university's leadership demanding they explain a reading assignment he was forwarded from a sociology student.

Although Nass is clearly upset in his July 7 letter about gay sex ever coming up in a classroom discussion, this largely isn't a class about sexuality. Actually, in effect, it's race that Nass doesn't want talked about on campus.

The article, "Not Just a Preference," is from the now defunct Canadian magazine, Fab, and is a takedown of sexual racism on Grindr, which every gay man who has ever used the app knows exists in plain sight.

The sociology class is titled, "How Race & Ethnicity Shape American Social Life." It includes more than 40 reading assignments over the course of the semester, examining race in the criminal justice system, naming of the NFL's Redskins, white allyship, cultural appropriation in pop culture, and a lengthy list of topics the country would be better off discussing than not.

President Obama just spoke in Dallas on Tuesday because of a mass shooting of police officers and nationwide protests over officers killing two black men -- Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. He exhorted the audience to have tough conversations about race and policies that have led to division.

"If we cannot even talk about these things, if we cannot talk honestly and openly, not just in the comfort of our own circles, but with those who look different than us or bring a different perspective, then we will never break this dangerous cycle," he warned.

Nass outlines a different approach to solving problems. Just don't talk about them.

Nass' letter to the Board of Regents and university chancellor makes it clear he doesn't want racism on Grindr ever discussed on campus. "We often hear significant whining from the officials at UW-Madison on the need for more state funding and higher tuition," writes Nass, who has threatened the university's funding before for talking about race. Nass lists the cost of the course, says it's being "subsidized" by the state, and questions tax dollars ever being spent on UW-Madison. He demands university leaders read the "offensive material" and report back to him on its "educational value." Their responses will be "part of evaluating the system's 2017-19 biennial budget request," he writes.

Nass claims he got a copy of the reading assignment from a student who complained.

"The essay in question analyzes the terminology used by gay men in describing their sexual wish-lists on 'hookup' or dating sites. The essay contains vulgar, obscene and racist language," he complains.

That was sort of the point, though. The essay is quoting racist language to call out the problem. It isn't itself racist.

Here's how Alex Rowlson kicked off that conversation in his Fab article, which The Advocate also obtained.

"We've all been there," he wrote. "You visit a hookup or dating website, cruise somebody's profile and are confronted with the list: no fats; no femmes; no Asians; no blacks; masc only; my age or younger; str8-acting, you be too; non-scene; and on and on. What we find is a lot hate when all we want is head."

Rowlson makes the case that all these "preferences" are actually "sexual segregation." He interviews Michael J. Faris and ML Sugie, authors of the essay "Fucking with Fucking Online: Advocating for Indiscriminate Promiscuity" and sociologist Adam Isaiah Green, a faculty member at the Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies at the University of Toronto, and Ali Abbas, author of the essay "Death By Masculinity." The point is, there's a lot of frank discussion in the piece. One talks about Grindr users having "the right to say what they're attracted to" and the "responsibility to watch how they say it." Another says the so-called preferences are racist. Rowlson ends by suggesting men "deny that bigoted beefcake a hookup because of his prejudiced profile."

It isn't hard to imagine a classroom discussion, or at least it wasn't for UW-Madison's Sociology Department chairwoman, who looked at the assignment at Nass' request. Pamela Oliver agreed it "appropriately pushes boundaries in order to spark discussion." She added in a statement that, "Among adult college students, analyzing how people talk about sexuality is considered appropriate material."

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